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3 Steps to Protect Time for Your Biggest Priorities

As leaders—especially leaders who have busy families—the calendar can spiral out of control very quickly. It doesn’t take long before you’re dropping important personal or family events. As a top executive and mother of four, Meg has mastered the art of taming a chaotic calendar. In this episode, captured live at the Achieve Conference, she shares three steps for protecting your highest priorities. When we’re done, you’ll have the confidence to know that you not missing out on what’s most important. And you’ll have the freedom to be fully present wherever you are.

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4 Ways to Make Fewer, Better Choices

Think back to the last decision you made. What were your options? How did you choose what to do? Most importantly, was the outcome of this decision instrumental in building your life, productivity, or happiness? Unless I caught you at a particularly productive or essential moment, probably not.

Most of the decisions we make are inherently unimportant: pants or shorts, walk or bike, read or retire.

It isn’t that we don’t make important decisions, we just make so many unimportant ones. You likely skipped clear past a number of these inconsequential choices when I asked you to think of the last decision you made, but ignoring them is a mistake. The act of decision making, even when small, contributes to decision fatigue.

Defining decision fatigue

Dr. Jean Twenge, who is now well known for her work on generational differences, wasn’t always a sought after psychologist and influential speaker. Years ago, she was a new bride and postdoctoral fellow working with Dr. Roy F. Baumeister at Case Western Reserve University.

Not every decision needs to be made now. In fact, some never need to be made again.

—ERIN WILDERMUTH

The lab’s work centered on ego depletion, the idea that people have limited mental resources that are depleted with use. Baumeister was especially interested in willpower. In his seminal ego-depletion study, from which the term was coined, he found that participants who had recently resisted freshly baked cookies were less able to persevere through a puzzle than their peers.

Twenge brought a new perspective to the research. Recalling the mental exhaustion of putting together her wedding registry, she wondered if simple decision making might draw from the same limited reserve of mental energy. The team developed an experiment where one group of students made a series of shopping-related decisions, while a second only considered choices. Afterward, both groups took a willpower test. The decision-makers scored significantly lower.

This preliminary exploration led to further experiments and a literature of research firmly in support of the decision fatigue hypothesis.

Decision fatigue outside the lab

Decision fatigue isn’t limited to the lab. Perhaps the most compelling real-world study found that judges were significantly more likely to grant parole in the morning than afternoon. Morning cases were released 70 percent of the time, while those in the late afternoon saw a release rate of less than 10 percent. There was a significant difference even among similar cases.

One might argue that these decisions are particularly weighty, but less important decisions are subject to the same effect. In a study of business analysis, for example, forecasters became less accurate as the day wore on. This dip in accuracy was accompanied by a greater proportion of choices made according to heuristic decision-making methods.

When running low on mental energy, both judges and analysts made safer choice.

Both choices, keeping inmates in jail and employing heuristics, can almost be thought of as not making a choice. Knowing that their decision making resources are depleted, these professionals choose to avoid the potential pitfalls of making a poor choice by choosing the safest option.

Judges chose to keep prisoners locked up, knowing that the decision will not result in preventable crimes and that the inmates can be released later. Analysts followed the crowd or relied on past decisions as a guide, using heuristic techniques that they could easily defend instead of making bold, innovative decisions.

Chances are you and I fall prey to the same phenomenon. Luckily, there are strategies to keep decision fatigue at bay:

1. Limit unnecessary or unimportant decision making

The most straightforward way to avoid decision fatigue is to make fewer unimportant decisions. Many successful men and women, for example, wear the same outfits each day. Eliminating or automating some decisions will help you save mental energy for other decisions.

2. Make important decisions first thing in the morning

Make important decisions in the morning. When possible, sleep on those decisions that pop up unexpectedly. A good decision one day later is usually better than a poor decision made right away.

3. Indulge in sugary snacks

Your body needs energy to function, and your brain is no exception. A 2007 study found that self-control requires glucose to function unimpaired. As decision making relies on the same resources, a sugar boost is likely to help in this category as well.

4. Be self-aware

Self-awareness, though not a solution to decision fatigue, is an important step to ensuring you aren’t making poor decisions later in the day. Check in with yourself. Take a moment to question whether you would address a decision differently if you felt more refreshed. Not every decision needs to be made now. In fact, some never need to be made again.

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4 Lists to Aid Your Decision Making

We are a society of list-makers. We gather groups of to-dos and to-don’ts, would-bes and should-bes, and we slap them down on legal pads and post-it notes, fancy journal pages, and stained napkins. Far too often those lists fail to translate to measurable success.

It doesn’t have to be this way. When making lists, a little strategy and intentionality can go a long way. It’s a discipline that far too many of us—especially those of us who the Wall Street Journal says are drowning in lists—are unaware of.

You can actually get better at making lists and those lists can help you become a better leader.

—ANDREA WILLIAMS

The truth is, you can actually get better at making lists and those lists can help you become a better leader. It starts with making the right lists. Here are 4 kinds of lists that can greatly aid the decisions you make for your business.

Checklists

As the broadest of all list categories, “checklists” can be populated with any data imaginable. Spencer Smith, a former VP of Sales at two Fortune 100 companies and recent founder of social media marketing firm Ampliphi, recommends a three-step checklist approach to stay on track:

  1. Create a daily checklist that determines what success looks like. “Small business owners can work 24/7 since there’s no longer a definition of a proper work day,” he says. “Without checklists, small business owners have a very, very hard time of knowing when they’re on-the-clock and when they’re not. Create a realistic daily checklist, and once you’re done, you can allow yourself to leave work feeling great.”
  2. Create a not-doing list: “It forces you to reconcile the best use of your time right now, and by knowing what you’re not doing, you’re telling yourself that the things you are doing are the most important and high-value items. A ‘not doing’ list also helps assuage that gnawing feeling of ‘what am I forgetting?'”

  3. Use the first two checklists to create systems for other team members. “Think to yourself, ‘If I was a brand-new person working in my business, what would I need to do, step-by-step, to complete this task/project?’ These step-by-step systems will prevent employee/contractor issues in the future since they’ll know what’s expected of them,” Smith says.

Like Smith, Helena Escalante, founder of Entregurus, also uses checklists on a daily basis. They are especially important when she is engaging in a repetitive process.

“Anything that I have to repeat more than twice merits a checklist to ensure uniformity in the outcome and quality,” she explains. “The more familiar you are with any process, the more you tend to become complacent and leave it to memory, but that’s when you are more prone to making mistakes. Checklists are wonderful to avoid mistakes because there is no decision-making. You simply follow and check every step, and at the end you will have the result that you set out to achieve initially.”

Pros and cons

In the hierarchy of lists, pros and cons may be just below to-dos in both popularity and ease of use. Most of us have probably been using them all our lives—from making dinner plans to deciding who to play with at recess—even if they were never written down. These lists are just as valuable in the business world.

Lazhar Ichir, founder of the AI-powered content marketing platform Topicseed, says that lists of pros and cons are like “fictional partners” that lend necessary reason and data to his decision-making process.

“You need to be at peace with criticizing your own ‘genius ideas’ and tearing them apart after thinking them through,” Ichir says. “Having cons does not mean the initial thought is not worth pursuing. Instead, cons allow you to be prepared once you start working on whatever it is that you have in mind.”

While relatively straightforward in design, Nate Masterson, CEO of Maple Holistics, argues that the most effective pros and cons lists don’t just reflect the obvious positive and negative aspects of a project or decision. They should also reflect the values and future vision of the company.

“Longevity is probably the most important factor to consider when you face a decision—tough or otherwise,” says Masterson. “When you make your pros and cons list, every factor of the decision should be filtered through longevity and values; if represented this way you can only make the best possible decisions.”

Workflows

If the goal of most businesses is to be as efficient as possible—to work smarter, not harder—it stands to reason that those businesses should be tracking how their work is actually done.

“Mapping workflows are critical in finding choke points and areas of inefficiency,” says business consultant Aaron Pfeifer. “When I work with organizations to optimize their operations, I insist on sitting with a person from each position within a workflow to understand not just the overall process, but the minutiae that can derail a process.”

Members of a team generally have a verbal understanding of their related workflows, whether their role is to publish blog content or process retail orders. But, says Pfeifer, writing them down often uncovers inefficiencies that can significantly impact operations.

“Often, we’ll find out that people are using workarounds for a broken system, duplicating data input, or waiting on a single person to approve work before it can continue,” he says. “Any delay in workflows results not only in delayed billing, but it increases employee frustration, mistakes, and upset customers—risking future opportunities.”

Louisiana-based business consultant Connelly Hayward is also a staunch advocate for developing workflows, noting that they “open up and enhance big picture thinking.”

“It allows everyone to see everything and prepare for seasonality, specifically the busy season,” Hayward explains. “When things get busy, where are problems likely to happen? What will be the nature of those problems? What can we do now to prevent those problems? If we can’t prevent them, what can we do to be best prepared to solve them when they do happen?”

Hayward also offers guidance on how to develop worfklow lists, suggesting that starting from the beginning may not be the best strategy.

“My advice, pick something and work backwards and forwards from there,” he says. “The process is basic and straightforward: We are at X, what does having X create/cause? Once we are at X, what is the very next thing that happens? What had to have happened for X to happen? What is the very last event/task before we have X? Many clients are surprised to discover that what they thought was the beginning point actually wasn’t.”

Prioritized vendors

As the founder and CEO of IndustryStar Solutions, a supply chain services and software company that helps organizations launch new products, Williams Crane helps his customers develop lists of vendors who can provide various capabilities or materials. His company also develops an internal Tracked Suppliers list that rates vendors on their performance across several metrics (cost, quality, service, and delivery) and assigns each supplier a status of “preferred” or “no source.”

“It is important to develop a scoring system for your vendors that will allow you and your team to communicate ratings and rankings,” Crane explains. “For example, if an organization’s goal is to optimize buffer stock levels to reduce inventory costs, it should track suppliers with quality or delivery issues and long lead times to reduce the impact of delayed and missed shipments.”

Developing a list of prioritized vendors is a nuanced, multi-step process. For Crane, it’s also one that ensures his company is able to best meet its own needs and those of its clients. He says the list is always in flux—growing, shrinking, and otherwise evolving based on the most current information available.

“Established companies with [prioritized vendor] lists often find that continuous maintenance—removing under-performing suppliers and adding new ones—is a key enabler for maintaining their supply bases,” Crane says. “Modern cloud software tools enable professionals to automate the process of identifying and qualifying suppliers and free up time to focus on engaging suppliers.”

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We begin each day with the best of intentions. But we often go to bed at night wondering exactly what we’ve accomplished. The problem? An endless stream of busy work invades our schedule and keeps us from doing the things that really matter. In this episode, you’ll learn the three simple steps for eliminating fake work so you can escape the frustration of meaningless chores and get the results that will drive your business forward.

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Becoming the Right Kind of Person to Succeed

Emily wanted to work in marketing. She was young and had no experience. She’d skipped college and used a portfolio of work and a Praxis apprenticeship to win a spot on the Customer Success team of a growing startup. But her goal was still marketing.

She aimed right at it and started asking people in the marketing department questions how she might join their team. They were busy and it didn’t seem to be working. So she stopped, stepped back, and asked “Who?” instead of “How?” Who would she need to be to get hired in marketing?

It’s not how to get there, it’s who is capable

She’d need to be someone that didn’t cost them time with questions and requests, but someone who saved them time. She’d need to be someone who demonstrated ability in marketing. She’d need to be someone easy to say yes to and hard to deny an opportunity. When she saw the marketing team looking at bringing on an intern, she volunteered to take on marketing intern tasks in addition to her CS role for no extra pay. She made their life easier. She learned some marketing skills. She became the kind of person they wanted. Not long after, she moved into marketing full-time.

Sometimes goals are a distraction. The big shiny end blinds us to the means necessary to get there. It doesn’t just obscure the path, it obscures who we need to become in order to walk it. Emily didn’t need to know how to work in marketing, but who can work in marketing.

Could you handle your goal?

If you imagine a goal, say a certain net worth, it’s not enough to plot a path to it. Such paths rarely work out the way you planned anyway. Instead, ask what kind of person you’d have to be to be capable and worthy of the goal.

A high net worth requires some qualities you probably don’t currently have. If you struggle managing finances now, for example, it will only get worse with more money. Become the kind of person who can handle it. Faithful in little leads to faithful in much. If you have a hard time saying no to people now, imagine dealing with all the askers and hangers-on you’ll have to deal with if you’re wealthy?

If you don’t start working on growing into someone capable of handling the goal, you won’t reach it.

Even vague goals have specific requirements

I tend to keep my end goals vague. But when I have one, I work backward to tease out what obstacles stand between where I am now and that goal, and what kind of person would I have to be to overcome those obstacles.

A few years into my career, I developed a vague goal of entrepreneurship. I knew I wanted to launch a vision, rally the best people around it, and build something that didn’t exist before. That was about as concrete as the goal got. I didn’t know what or how or when. I thought about creating something new and leading a team to execute and asked what would stand in the way of success. What obstacles existed between here and there?

Sometimes goals are a distraction. The big shiny end blinds us to the means necessary to get there.

—ISAAC MOREHOUSE

Whatever the venture, I’d need money. Revenue from customers, funds from investors, or both. Getting money for a brand new unproven thing is an obstacle. Surmounting that obstacle required a skill I didn’t have: sales.

Rallying top people around a vision would also require a great network of top people. I had a small one, but it needed to be deeper and wider.

If I wanted to create something worth creating, sell, and recruit, I’d need to be awesome at casting a vision. I’d need to be a great communicator, formally and informally, in writing, speeches, meetings, and interviews. I had some natural talent but would need to seriously level up.

Even though the goal remained vague—create something new someday—the obstacles were clear. I could see who I’d need to become. Until then, even if the opportunity plopped into my lap, I’d be incapable of seizing it and succeeding. I had to become the kind of person for whom those obstacles were easy.

Even if the opportunity plopped into my lap, I’d be incapable of seizing it. I had to become the kind of person for whom those obstacles were easy.

—ISAAC MOREHOUSE

The obstacles focus the activity

This led me to leave one great job for a totally different one so I could learn sales. It made me go out of my way to help people and build social capital. It led me to start writing every day, to do as many speaking gigs as I could, mostly unpaid, to do podcasts and videos, to start projects and lead meetings. I didn’t focus on my ill-defined end goal at all. I focused entirely on becoming the kind of person capable of achieving it.

When the right idea struck at the right time, I was ready (or as ready as you can be). I launched Praxis as a complete startup novice on paper. But I had cultivated the attributes and become the kind of person capable of working around or busting through the obstacles that come with launching a company.

Emily didn’t predict her path to a marketing job through CS and intern duties. I didn’t plot the path that led me to build a company. You probably can’t for your goals either. But you can walk backward from the goal through the obstacles along the way and ask what kind of person you’d have to be to overcome them. And you can get to work today becoming that person.

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Applying 4DX in Production and Operations Environments

Is execution more difficult than strategy? Nine out of ten business leaders say “yes.” If you are a leader with operational or production responsibility, you may feel an even higher sense of frustration when it comes to execution.

In the early 2000s, a group of us at Franklin Covey began working on the methodology known as The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX). Currently, the book by the same name is the most read book in the world on the topic of strategy execution and over 3,000 organizations and 200,000 teams are formally running 4DX.

Recently, we made an interesting finding. In our case studies, we kept seeing the biggest financial gains from implementing 4DX in the areas that could best be described as operations and production environments. The 4DX methodology has been successfully used in every type of industry, but it was these operational leaders who were having the greatest success.

We didn’t have a good explanation for this. Were these leaders using the 4DX approach in a different way than leaders in other industries? Did prior experience in continuous improvement efforts like Lean or 6 Sigma make them better implementers of the approach? Where there just bigger gains to be had? There was some evidence to support all these possibilities, but the more we talked to these operational leaders the more we noticed a pattern. It seemed all their stories and insights kept revolving around the same three challenges. These challenges were in producing results that required:

  • the effort of many people
  • process adoption
  • alignment across different functions

Regardless of whether these leaders were trying to improve cost, quality, production, or safety, they had to overcome these same three challenges. While these challenges are not unique to operational leaders, they are extraordinarily significant in the operational environment. In this article, we will share the stories and advice from top operational leaders who have utilized 4DX to address these challenges and produce results measured in millions and even billions of dollars. The specific names of the companies and their leaders that utilized 4DX are not disclosed to protect confidentiality.

1. Produce a result that requires the effort of many people

Getting a small team to focus and work on a new strategy is difficult. Moving a large team, a division, or even an entire organization to work on a new strategy can seem impossible. Almost without exception, the leaders we interviewed discussed this issue and applied 4DX to those results that required the efforts of a large number of people.

When Steve, vice president of manufacturing operations at a leading manufacturer of railroad equipment, improved cycle-count accuracy from 80% to 98%, it required the work of hundreds of people across multiple sites—each making and keeping small commitments. These commitments included activities like cycle-counting different items every week, creating new storage areas, and making signage where none had existed. The accumulation of these small activities by hundreds of people had an impact measured in millions of dollars in inventory and cost savings.

The idea of big results from small activities is a recurring theme. Casey, vice president of production at the North American oil producer that saved over a billion dollars by increasing plant availability from 72% to 100% while cutting costs by over 22%, says,
“In our results, you don’t see these big elephant projects to save costs. It’s these small things that the operators and maintenance teams come up with. That’s what’s driven our costs down. Everybody on the team found those one or two little things that they could do to reduce costs. It’s just that one little thing every week.”

Steve, plant manager at a large agricultural-equipment manufacturing facility, said, “One of the most powerful things was the $50,000 to $100,000 projects that just kept popping out of the woodwork, and the next thing you know—all of these small projects add up to $2 million, $5 million, $10 million. It became more about a bunch of small projects—generating people’s ideas—getting their engagement. It ended up saving us millions and millions of dollars.”

2. Produce a result that requires improved process adoption

Although, we never suggested that our clients apply 4DX to their critical work processes—that is what they continue to do. According to Steve, plant manager, “Entropy is in every process. Every process you have, if you aren’t paying attention to it, is decaying. If you don’t pay attention to it long enough, it decays to the point where it completely breaks down.”

Mike, a global director of process improvement at a Fortune 500 supplier of paint products that improved first run compliance on complex paint formulas by 75%, pointed out that they had the processes in place, but as the pressure of daily, urgent activities intensified, process adherence slipped. Mike explained, “When people are stretched, they tend to take shortcuts, and they don’t follow process. What 4DX gave us was a mechanism to say we’re going to make sure we get these people to find the time to focus on the important stuff. It wasn’t lack of know-how. It’s that we weren’t able to allocate a significant amount of resources and time to get it done.”

In the case above, Mike and his organization were clear on a strategic path (they had the formal process right). The challenge was executing the process. 4DX gave them a method for maintaining focus on the most critical parts of their process and resulted in some of their largest gains.

4DX gave them a method for maintaining focus on the most critical parts of their process and resulted in some of their largest gains.

—CHRIS MCCHESNEY

3. Produce a result that requires alignment across different functions

Almost all operations and production outcomes require coordinated efforts across different teams. This is even more difficult when those outcomes are strategic (outside the normal, day-to-day operation). Again, although folks at Franklin Covey don’t spend a lot of time talking about cross-functional cooperation with our clients implementing 4DX, it is almost always cited as one of the biggest benefits of running the process.

Colin, shift team lead at the North American oil producer, said, “4DX has really aligned our teams. We had trouble at times with just one crew alone getting on the same page. One thing that 4DX has done is actually align four crews together. I think it’s the first time we’ve actually got the four crews to agree on something.”

Trevor, a director responsible for production at the same North American oil producer, said, “The biggest effect that 4DX has had on us is that everybody understands the end goal. Everybody is paddling the canoe the same way. Everybody understands what the goal is and what their attachment is to that goal.”

One of the challenges of cross-functional alignment is keeping everyone tethered to the same outcome. The other equally daunting challenge is managing the handoff as work moves from group to group and tends to fall through the cracks. This issue was raised by almost every manufacturing leader we spoke with.

One leader of a large Midwestern manufacturing plant discussed the gray (or undefined) area between teams, such as between the manufacturing teams and the quality engineering teams. “Everyone has done what they think they should do, but if it doesn’t include the gray area, then you end up with a chasm between manufacturing engineering and quality engineering. If the handoff does not go right, whatever you’ve done falls into the chasm,” this leader explained.

We first observed that “work falling through the cracks” working with the top 50 developers of one of the largest military contracts in US history. We taught these developers the concepts behind 4DX and they immediately began building lead measures around critical handoff points between groups in their processes. We were shocked at the improvement in productivity.

One additional by-product

We had always known that 4DX was rooted in accountability, but the impact 4DX has on engagement snuck up on us. When working with Lean Six Sigma teams at large carpet manufacturer we noticed a big jump in employee engagement. This jump in engagement happened when the teams recognized they were winning.

Two months later, we saw the same jump in engagement at a bottling plant in Michigan, where union employees were skipping their lunch breaks because they were competing to accomplish team goals with the other shifts. We started to see it everywhere, but it is important to note that the jump in engagement didn’t happen immediately after we launched the process. This is a big idea: The jump in engagement came when the teams began making progress towards their wildly important goals.

Of all of the insights that came from interviewing production, and operations leaders, this quote from Steve, vice president of manufacturing operations at a leading manufacturer of railroad freight equipment, was our favorite: “Before 4DX, employees came to work, did their jobs, and then they went home. They could care less about anything else. They were walking by trash on the floor, they were walking by broken machines leaking oil, and they went home. Now, they really care! They are passionate about it—they own it. They took ownership through the 4DX process, and you see it in all of our team members. That’s what’s been really rewarding. We see that people care about it now.”

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How to Create with the End in Mind

Leaders are responsible for getting results. Yet it seems like we’re constantly reinventing the wheel, trying to solve the same old problems. In this episode, Michael and Megan show you how to get exactly the result you’re looking for in any business process.

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Leverage the Power of Daily Habits to Supercharge Your Day

All of us want to be fully engaged and highly productive, but every day brings a fresh round of small obstacles. In this episode, we’ll show you the four daily routines guaranteed to launch you into a productive day. When we’re finished, you’ll avoid that feeling that you are never quite caught up and enter each day calm, collected, and fully prepared to reach your goals.

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Every leader manages a whirlwind of commitments, appointments, and deadlines. Sometimes it seems as if we’re one step behind. In this encore episode, we’ll show you the three basic tools that will enable you to manage your day. Plus, give practical tips on coordinating your calendar with an executive assistant.

While Michael and Megan are on a July sabbatical, we’ve hand-picked a few of the most popular episodes of the podcast for you to enjoy. We’ll be back with more great content in August.
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Snooze Now, Conquer Later

My two-year-old is asleep for the third time today. I thought I had developed a clever disciplinary method when I started telling him that cranky kids need naps, and sending him to bed multiple times. Turns out I was being more clever than I knew. Instead of being better behaved, he just keeps going to sleep. There seems to be no limit to the number of naps this kid can take. As an added bonus, without fail, he awakens a much more pleasant child.

My father has also started taking naps more seriously. He has always an epic sleeper. I remember him lightly snoozing in his chair as the rest of us went about our business, mumbling that he was awake if asked. In celebration of retirement, he has taken it to the next level—graduating to daily, horizontal naps.

With the old and young around me choosing naps, I can’t help but wonder if I’m missing out on something.

I’m not the only one. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Arianna Huffington have spoken about their napping habits, and they are not alone. A quick glance through history books reveals a long line of influential nappers. Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Thomas Edison were all known to take naps.

Their decision, it turns out, is backed by science.

Napping and productivity

The benefits of getting enough sleep are widely acknowledged, but why choose naps instead of catching more Zs at night? The simple answer is that it makes the second part of your day as productive as the first. About an hour after waking is considered our most productive time. Even if you consider yourself a night-owl, chances are your cognitive abilities are sharper after some shut-eye. It is more than common sense. It is science.

In a review of the many studies conducted on napping, Dr. Catherine Milner and Dr. Kimberly A. Cote find a host of productivity-related benefits. Napping improves reaction time, psychomotor speed, vigor, and vigilance. In one [study}(https://elibrary.ru/item.asp?id=7466161), participants saw their ability to complete additional tasks improve post-nap and in another, retirees saw improvements in episodic memory, visuospatial abilities, and general cognition. Yet another study on memory found that working-aged people were able to perform recall tasks better after a nap when compared to drinking coffee. The nap doesn’t need to be long: even a six-minute micro-nap improves declarative memory.

Napping and learning

Sleep is known to help consolidate memory and contribute to learning, but some scientists say the same benefits can be reaped from naps. Dr. Sara Mednick looks at how sleep impacts learning. In a 2003 study, she found that a 90-minute snooze is just about as good for learning perceptual skills as a full eight hours. Even better, the power of a nap adds to the learning potential experienced during regular sleeping hours.

Participants who napped in addition to their regular sleep schedule experienced “improvement, such that performance over 24 hours showed as much learning as is normally seen after twice that length of time.” The research suggests that if you’re struggling with complex learning tasks, a nap can help.

Napping and health

We know that getting enough sleep is important for overall health, but there is also evidence that napping, in particular, is a healthy habit. A 2016 study by the European Society of Cardiology compared the health of 386 patients with arterial hypertension to see how napping might impact their health.

Those that took mid-day naps had lower blood pressure and anatomical evidence of less blood pressure related damage. Napping was also associated with fewer medication prescriptions.

The benefits extend into real-world results. In a longitudinal study of over 23,000 healthy people, nappers had a much lower rate of coronary mortality. Those who napped occasionally had a 12% lower coronary mortality rate, while those who napped often had a 37% percent lower rate.

Towards a culture of napping

Napping is becoming popular because it is easier to coordinate than a full eight hours of blissfully uninterrupted shut-eye at night. Work hours are long and time with our families is precious. A twenty-minute nap can be slotted in between meetings or a longer snooze can take place over lunch, leaving free time at home to be spent on hobbies or with loved ones.

In China, public napping is commonplace. “It’s nothing unusual,” Chinese journalist Lorraine Lu writes. “If you get tired, you just put a cushion or pillow on your desk, lay your head on it and rest for 15 minutes.”

Aside from the workplace, subways and even Ikea are fair game. The same is true of several other Asia countries, and the afternoon siesta is a time-honored condition in many Spanish-speaking nations.

Though the United States is yet to catch up, some companies are coming around to the idea of corporate nap time. A 2011 poll found that 34% of respondents were allowed to nap at work and hundreds of sleep pods are popping up in offices, hospitals, and schools around the country.

If you aren’t one of the Americans already taking naps, there is no time like the present.

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